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Sunday Conversation: 12/23

This week wasn't full of banner efforts from the boys in blue (or green). While the Sandy Hook Elementary tribute showed a classy side to Xavier off the court, the on the court product just slipped farther from contention for the all important NCAA tournament. First, a chance for a good win was spurned as the offense, and Semaj Christon, disappeared in the second half against UC. Yesterday, a bad loss hit the books in the form of a complete disaster against a Wofford Terriers team that should have been nothing but a morale booster.

Brad: What in the name of everything holy was that? Dad is fired up about Coach Mack right now and I'm not sure I'm the one to talk him back from the edge. Good Lord, I've never seen a team capitulate under so little impetus from their opponent.

Joel: I don't know. I'm trying to come up with a defense of that display from any angle, and I can't. Trav clearly came ready to dominate, and they clearly couldn't stop him. If they double, kick out and then repost. Why Mack didn't cycle the roster for someone who would feed Taylor is beyond me. If the people out there won't look inside, find someone who will. He's the coach, and that's on him.

I want to take this opportunity to apologize for every good thing I've ever said about Jeff Robinson.

Brad: I still can't get over that foul. Watch it again and watch Redford react [Brad dropped to both knees with his hands on his head in disbelief]. Also note who goes over to console Robinson. That would be no one. He's a hanger on that is sucking time away from someone that could do something with it (Stenger).

Philmore is worrying me too. All that popcorn muscle is nice, but get in there and move someone with it son. He lingers around looking like every other big dude that is scared of contact. This team is infuriating, and that's before you factor in the brain lock the coaching staff had.

Joel: Remember when we fed it to Butler and beat Purdue on the road? Was that even this same team? I checked, it was. We know the talent is there, it's just a question of getting it in play. I've identified three things I find the most troublingly fixable and fixed percentages to the likelihood of each happening.

1) Feed the post. Trav can score, and we've worked inside-out to some effect when we've been bothered to go in. I also watched this same coaching staff let Big Kenny get ignored for almost his whole career. If we feed him down the stretch against Baylor, we win. Different cast here, but the same script. Maybe 20% chance this happens, which is a shame, because it's an easy and obvious fix.
2) Find Semaj a jump shot. Christon is so explosive off the bounce, but teams are starting to mitigate that by playing a mile off and daring him to shoot. He can't. Even with that much space, he's still finding his way to the rim. If only he could hit free throws... Anyway, a player can work himself into being a better shooter, but that's hard to do during the season. I'll give this one a 10% chance of success. He need to lock himself in the gym this summer.
3) Stop being so stupid. Wofford scored too many easy buckets on back cuts and simple motions off the ball. Martin had his head in the clouds. Robinson happened. Surprisingly, I think there's hope here. Stenger, Taylor, and Redford have all played fairly intelligently, and Dee and Semaj have it in them. Give me those five for a spell and I think we have an 80% chance of not doing something to shoot ourselves in the butt. The percentage drops with every substitution.

Obviously, there are other problems, but those three are the most obviously harmful to me.

Brad: It's the stupid one that bothers me. All teams have talent deficiencies in places, and we knew this team had more than most. It's the fact that we just keep putting ourselves in places to lose that bothers me. This was a simple win. It was never going to be sexy, but it was just a walk to 8-3. Instead we find ourselves hoping Christon makes free throws because we are too dense to feed the post. We just stupided ourselves out of one of the only gimmies on the schedule.

Joel: Now we head to Tennessee. I haven't followed them too closely, but I recall from the offseason writeup that they have some talent in the paint. If we don't figure it out on the perimeter, we're going to get our taints handed to us.

I actually agree with Mack that this team has a high ceiling. Unfortunately, it also has an extremely low floor. I'm most worried right now about JMart. Even with Taylor playing well, Martin is the key. He's literally the only player on the team who can score from behind the arc or off the bounce. Too many more listless 2-8s out of him with no defense and we're hoping for an invite to the CBI. You think we can go .500 in the conference?

Brad: Can we? Yes. Will we? A week ago I would have said yes, but now I don't know. We just don't look good right now. Coach Mack called it disheartening, and he was right. For one, you have a senior committing a foul whose stupidity cannot be overstated. What hurts more is that we were even there. Wofford scored six in nine minutes in the second half and won.

Remember at the start of the year you were talking about the ball moving more and everyone being involved? Well now Semaj is very close to being a ball stopper but he doesn't finish plays off. We are watching last year's offense, just without the talent.

Joel: That's what worries me. Is it something Coach Mack is doing? It must be. Is the offense he teaches really "stand around and watch a guy dribble off a ballscreen and run into the middle for an improbable attempt at scoring?" Didn't he see how much more smoothly it went when we dumped it in to Trav and let him go to work? I think Trav has a good feel for when to kick out, but we do him a disservice when we never dump it back in. I'm just frustrated that we are the more talented team losing because we're less cohesive and worse at basketball. Didn't the shoe used to be on the other foot there?

Brad: I'm concerned it is the offense. We seem to run a set to get someone the ball and then just sort of wait. What is even more concerning is that we all saw what needed done last night. You, me, and Dad are all calling for the repost, but the coach isn't. That fix isn't some bit of basketball nuance that DVR and hindsight were able to dredge up. This isn't one of those nitpick the coach things either; this is a glaringly obvious switch we just didn't make.

Joel: Are we that smart? Probably not. So apparently it was fairly obvious. More concerningly, Randolph scouts as being "too focused on scoring." Are we setting up for more of the same going forward? I hope not; it's less fun to watch, even when it works.

Brad: Maybe he gives us someone with the ability to win a game even after we crap it away. Tu could do that, Lyons did from time to time, no one did yesterday.